Weekend Forecasting: Previewing and predicting the top high school basketball games

Joliet West’s Justus McNair (1) drives toward the basket against Warren.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

With sectional seeds coming next week, there are a select few teams out there with an opportunity to boost their résumé this weekend. Here is a look at the biggest and best games in this Weekend Forecast. 

Last week: 5-3

Overall: 32-17

Friday

No. 6 Benet (20-3) at No. 18 Marist (20-4)

The opportunity to basically put the East Suburban Catholic Conference race to bed is there for Benet. But it won’t be easy.

Benet beat Marist 62-61 back in December. Coach Gene Heidkamp’s young team is better than it was then. But it’s also playing without junior guard Blake Fagbemi, who has been nursing an injury. Nonetheless, Benet, behind super sophomore Gabe Sularski and 6-9 junior Daniel Pauliukonis, played well in its win Tuesday over St. Patrick. 

Marist has been good and steady all season behind senior Darshan Thomas and a host of talented young players. But a win over a ranked team –– the Redhawks have lost to Benet, Brother Rice and Centralia –– would be a real late-season boost for this team. 

The pick: Benet 60, Marist 56

No. 13 Bloom (14-7) at No. 14 Kankakee (19-3)

Another Southland Conference battle, commonplace in this league this season. Both are trying to keep pace with Thornton in the conference race. 

Bloom has played a meat grinder of a schedule and could use a feel-good win. The extremely balanced Blazing Trojans beat Kankakee 44-39 in early January. 

The combo of senior guard Larenz Walters and sophomore Lincoln Williams may be the most underrated 1-2 punch out there. Both Walters, the 6-1 senior guard, and Williams, the super talented sophomore, average 18 points a game. 

The pick: Kankakee 65, Bloom 62

Lake Zurich (16-6) at No. 22 Lake Forest (18-5)

A key game in the North Suburban Conference where Lake Forest is one game up on both Warren and Lake Zurich. 

When facing Lake Zurich it starts with dealing with 6-8 Anton Strelnikov, an efficient and productive big man. The junior is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds a game.

Lake Forest has put it together. Playing its best basketball of the season, the Scouts have dependable senior guard Tommie Aberle (15.5 ppg) and budding 6-7 Hudson Scroggins (14 ppg), who is one of the best-kept secrets in the junior class. The lefty can do so many things that hurt you inside and out. 

The pick: Lake Forest 53, Lake Zurich 48

Romeoville (17-8) at Joliet West (16-9)

Both teams were once ranked this season. Neither are ranked now. But this is for first-place in the Southwest Prairie East. 

Romeoville won the first matchup in December, beating Joliet West 61-54, but trails in the standings by one game. Joliet West has also owned this series of late, winning 10 of the last 12 times these two have met. 

Joliet West is beginning to put it together, winning five of its last six with wins over West Aurora and Oswego East while the only loss was to highly-ranked Curie. 

Justus McNair (18 ppg), the Valpo recruit, and junior Zion Gross (10 ppg) continue to lead the Tigers. But this dangerous perimeter tandem has been thriving in the second half of the season, with McNair and Gross averaging 21 points and 17 points a game, respectively, over the last seven games. 

The personnel that Romeoville brings to the table, featuring talented lead guard EJ Mosley, remains one with scary potential. But with the loss of five starters and plenty of newcomers, it was bound to be a work in progress this season. The Spartans, though, have scuffled of late and are just 3-6 since the calendar turned to 2024.

The pick: Joliet West 67, Romeoville 62

Saturday

No. 10 Bolingbrook (18-4) at No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (22-0)

The subplots in this one are irresistible. 

Waubonsie Valley remains unbeaten. Can the Warriors finish the regular season off with a perfect record?

There is a superstar freshman all eyes have been on in Bolingbrook’s Davion Thompson. Can Thompson and the Raiders take down the last unbeaten big school in the Chicago area?

And the deepest sectional in the state, where these two will be playing, will be seeded next week. What will a Bolingbrook win do to a sectional seeding process that will also include Benet and Downers Grove North up near the top?

With this opportunity you better believe Bolingbrook will be fully on its game and find a way to end the unbeaten start of Waubonsie Valley.

The pick: Bolingbrook 52, Waubonsie Valley 50

No. 23 York (21-4) at Lake Park (22-3)

We’ll get right to the point when talking about these two 20-plus win teams. 

First, both teams feature two of the best, yet unsung, guards in the state. 

Lake Park’s Cam Cerese has been a force and in attack mode all season. He’s averaging a whopping 24.5 points a game. York’s AJ Levine, a Penn recruit and an all-around point guard, can score (16 ppg) and distribute (4.3 apg).

Second, the winner of this one will be awarded the No. 1 seed in the Addison Trail Sectional. The expectation is these two will meet again with the stakes even higher in a month. 

The pick: York 45, Lake Park 42

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